Downtrodden underdog is the theme which runs through all of the Rocky movies. The protagonist’s triumph against a hierarchical food chain, of which he is at the bottom, is what makes this franchise so satisfying to the diehard fans of these cult movie classics, the first of which celebrates its forty year anniversary this year.
Abused, demoralised, uncared for, and going nowhere fast, the central character, Rocky, played by Sylvester Stallone, works as a debt collector for a gangster; quite an ugly career, but one which he must do to survive. However, we can see from his disobeying his boss’s order to break a man’s thumbs as being central to his inherent decency.
Rocky is a boxer who, apparently has innate talent, but does not put his heart into his training until he, through a chance occurrence, gets a “shot at the title” that nobody outside of himself and his trainer, Mick, take seriously. And so, the scene is set for a David and Goliath battle which is, truly, the fight of the century.
For many, one of the most memorable quotes from the movie franchise, and one which sums up the common theme that is woven through the fabric of all of them, is when Rocky speaks to his self-pitying son in Rocky 6.
“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows, it’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you think you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it.”
Hearing about Jameson’s Cult Movie Night’s screening of the first Rocky film on Facebook, I immediately knew it was an event I had to go to even though I have seen the movie about ten times over the years.
DJ Aidan Kelly was rocking the joint when I arrived and the atmosphere was bursting with an excited electricity which pulsed through my veins in a manner I haven’t felt since being five years old and waiting for Santa Claus to come.
“Something is going to happen in the next ten minutes,” a Jameson staff member, Leah, tells me, and my excitement goes off the Richter scale as I spot a replica of the Rocky movie ring in the centre of the room.
“What is that?” I excitedly enquire.
“I can’t tell you,” she says with a mischievous smile. This is she and her delightful friend below.
Whiskey concoctions and burgers are being handed out in abundance and I suspect this may be the best night of my life.
Shortly thereafter, a distinguished looking chap with a rich Philadelphia accent announces the start of the fight which mirrors the opening scene of the original movie.
Having seen every Rocky movie about ten times my expectations are not that high for the actual movie screening, but boy did I underestimate the lengths to which the organisers would go to make this event a fun filled night to remember.
Throughout the screening actors came onto the stage and acted out various scenes from it to a delighted audience. They even had the stage set up to be very similar looking to the parts of the original film set. But the fun was only getting started at this point.
After the show many of those in attendance, including yours truly, had the opportunity to get in the ring for a photo op with actors dressed as Rocky and Apollo Creed.
Various Jameson based beverages were flowing freely at this point and even the bar staff were getting down and groovy with a style of enthusiastic and entertaining service that I have never witnessed outside of the movie Cocktail with Tom Cruise.
All-too-soon the fun is over, and I find myself mulling over what makes Rocky such a timeless classic with such mass appeal.
There are many very poignant scenes in the movie including one before the main fight where Rocky points out to one of the promoters that his shorts are the wrong colour on the promotional poster and his concerns are dismissed like he is not worth the air he breathes.
I think most people have, at some point in their lives, had their self-confidence steamrolled by the likes of such people whose status has turned them into heartless, uncaring bullies with an over-inflated sense of self-importance, and I think being able to relate to our protagonist’s struggle is what makes the movie so appealing to so many generations of fans.
The satisfying conclusion to the movie is where Rocky achieves what he set out to do. He wanted only to go the distance with Apollo, as nobody had ever done this before.
The movie represents hope for the downtrodden and it’s appeal is that, just for a little while, it makes you feel like maybe, just maybe, if you believe in your own talents and abilities, your dreams can come true.